If you’re a smoker in select countries, you may find those stomach-turning pictures of rotting mouths or dying babies on your go-to pack gross, but they could wind up saving your life.
A new study published in the Tobacco Journal claims that pictorial warnings on cigarette packaging (PWLS) – which have long been required in places like Canada, the UK and Australia but not the United States – could help prevent over 652,000 smoking-related deaths in the US every year.
“While many countries have adopted prominent [PWLs] for cigarette packs, the USA still requires only small, text-only labels located on one side of the cigarette pack that have little effect on smoking-related outcomes,” reads the study, pointing out that tobacco industry litigation road-blocked implementation of a 2011 Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rule mandating large PWLs.
Following the analysis of changes in smoking rates in Canada, the UK and Australia, researchers found that only eight years after PWLs were introduced in Canada, there was an estimated 12-20 percent relative reduction in smoking prevalence. Following the implementation of PWLs in Australia, the prevalence of adult smoking decreased from 21.3 percent in 2007 to 19 percent in 2008, and in Britain, it dropped 10 percent from 2008 to 2009.
The study says that launching major PWLs in the US would reduce smoking prevalence by at least five percent.
“The bottom line is, that requiring large pictorial warnings would help protect the public health of people in the United States,” said researcher David Levy, according to Eurekalert.
“There is a direct association between these warnings and increased smoking cessation and reduced smoking initiation and prevalence. That would lead to a significant reduction of death and morbidity, as well as medical cost,” he added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say over 16 million Americans are currently living with a smoking-related disease, while an estimated 40 million US adults are current smokers. Smoking accounts for over 480,000 deaths every year in the US.